Introduction The Caribbean is the most tourism-dependent region in the world (World Travel and Tourism Council 2014). The area received an estimated 22 million visitors in 2014 contributing 14.6 per cent or US$ 51.9 billion of total GDP. As the main foreign currency earner in most of the 28 island states and provider of employment for an estimated three million people, tourism is often held up as a panacea for all forms of regional development (Cummins 2013). This has been exacerbated by the demise of agriculture in a region where, for decades, export crops such as banana and sugar enjoyed preferential access to protected EU markets (Mlachila, Cashin & Haines 2010). However, EU reforms and international trade liberalisation have eroded this advantage. Caribbean farmers have struggled to compete with largescale producers from South America, in particular, and so exports have dropped. Not only that, but domestic food markets have been flooded by heavily subsidised imports, especially from the United States (Weis 2004; Oxford Economics 2012). With these pressures on export and domestic food markets, regional agricultural economies have been devastated, facing huge debts, rising incidence of poverty and loss of livelihoods (Mlachila, Cashin & Haines 2010). In this context, tourism is centre stage in the development strategies for the region, but this too faces a number of challenges. For example, the ‘warming relationship’ between Cuba and the United States (Jamaica Observer 2015a) means that the socialist state has enjoyed a 36 per cent increase in tourists from the United States and a 14 per cent rise worldwide between January and May 2015. Other islands now fear that the surge in visitors to Cuba will have a deleterious knock-on effect on their tourist numbers (The Guardian 2015). As a result, some states are attempting to diversify their tourism product to appeal to new markets.